President Lourenço’s political capital has been substantially enhanced by the speed of his economic liberalisation and transparency campaign; such support will become crucial as his government begins to implement unpopular austerity policies and painful structural reforms.
Angola’s new president asserts his authority over the security forces as part of his broader transparency campaign, yet a heavy-handed offensive in the oil-producing Cabinda enclave is likely to trigger a violent rebel reaction, while the probability of a cross-border offensive into DRC is rising.
Angola’s new government has made drastic overtures to improve transparency and stimulate the oil-dependent economy as it prepares to reach out afresh to the IMF and overturn four generations of an opaque status quo. Yet massive debts at state oil firm Sonangol and the banking sector’s political exposure remain key risks in the medium term.
The new president has made his first bold indications that he will target the business interests of his predecessor’s family and closest associates in the energy sector and financial services, as well as media and telecommunications; the battle for control over Sonangol will ramp up as rival factions in the governing party seek to push forward contentious restructuring plans for the distressed state oil company.
The UN and southern African countries are fast running out of patience with the Congolese government, as evidence mounts on the role of DRC intelligence agencies in the high-profile murders of UN researchers in March and as Congo’s refugee crisis continues to affect neighbouring Angola and Zambia.
The opposition has failed to persuade Angola’s courts to nullify last month’s elections and the political transition is on course to culminate on 21 September; meanwhile, the outgoing president seeks further assurances of control over the ruling party and security services once he leaves office, which is likely to frustrate restructuring plans in the oil sector and might confuse relations with the IMF and other lenders.
The MPLA has cemented its dominant political hold over Angola despite losing its majority in the capital; the main challenge for the incoming government will be to distribute more of the country’s wealth from the outgoing president’s family and towards a broader section of the MPLA leadership and support base, affecting interests in banking, media, and the energy sector.
The political transition in Africa’s third largest economy reaches its climax as Angola holds peaceful and orderly elections; yet the real shift in influence dynamics will only begin once debates are launched on the reform of the oil sector and the role of the IMF to assist the country’s economic recovery.
A trade dispute with South Africa over US chicken imports last year and an ongoing disagreement between the US and East African countries over used clothing imports indicate that some African countries are increasingly willing to forego privileged US market access, while the US government may move to repeal multilateral trade terms in favour of bilateral deals with selected African countries.
As both the Congolese government and the UN lose control over the insurgency in the Kasaï provinces, neighbouring Angola will become more likely to intervene militarily to stem the flow of refugees into its Lunda Norte province; meanwhile, the conflict is increasingly marked by ethnic cleansing.
- EXX Africa director Robert Besseling moderated a panel on Africa’s commodity rollercoaster at GTR Commodities in Geneva hosted by Global Trade Review (GTR)
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